The BC Government is taking a lot of criticism from the big tenured companies for restoring ministerial approval of tenure transfers. Tenure is the exclusive renewable right to harvest the BC public’s forest resource and pay for what is taken based upon a formula instead of competitive bidding. The granting of tenures was a mid-1900’s social engineering project designed to develop the province. These rights to harvest the public’s timber came with social obligations to the public.
The Forest Renewal Act of 2003 (FRA 2003) removed these obligations and essentially converted tenures into freely traded assets. The removal of ministerial oversight inevitably resulted in big companies merging to become bigger companies and then buying out the little guys.
The Independent Wood Processors Association (IWPA) is a group of about 60 family-owned BC companies that exist for the purpose of buying partially finished forest products from the tenured companies and employing British Columbians to further process that wood within BC.
Since FRA 2003, it has become increasingly difficult for IWPA members to buy that raw material as the number of potential suppliers has decreased and the market control of the remaining suppliers has increased.
Present day sees five very large tenured companies that have consolidated rights to harvest the public’s forest resource to the point where they have regional control of supply. For various reasons, not only have they chosen to invest their BC made profits in collectively buying or building over 50 sawmills in the USA, but some are also now choosing to have the Americans do the value-added work to the BC public’s wood.
The BC Government understands this. They realize that there has been massive job loss in the sawmill sector, with more to come, and that secondary value-added processing of lumber in BC has been reduced by half since FRA 2003.
They are trying to rebuild the secondary sector to process the Public’s resource to the fullest extent possible within BC. It’s a perfect solution and does not add any strain to the resource. Instead of doing less to more, we can do more to less.
Step one is to prevent further consolidation of control of the BC public’s timber resource and reduce that control if possible. To that end, the BC Government has reinstated the requirement for ministerial approval of tenure transfers that existed prior to FRA 2003. Step two is to prevent those that presently control our resource from sending lumber to the USA and elsewhere to have the value-added work done there.
To that end, the BC Government is making changes to the Manufactured Forest Products Regulation which will hopefully bring that work back to BC so that we can process our own resource for the benefit of the true owners of the resource.
We fully support the BC Government’s current steps to ensure that BC’s non-tenured wood processors have access to a share of the public’s resource for the purpose of obtaining the greatest possible socioeconomic benefit per cubic meter harvested.
President – Independent Wood Processors Association of BC